An Island Fox Took My Spoon

By Chuck Graham   |   June 21, 2022
Looking for a spoon…

That bowl of oats is almost a daily ritual at this stage of life. Organic oats, organic granola, organic honey, and berries; blue, black and raspberries, plus a ripe banana along with some creamy hemp milk will suffice, rain, shine, fog or northwest winds.

When the island foxes are around, they tilt their heads upwards toward me as I prepare my bowl of oats – those tiny, wet, black-button snouts glistening in the morning sun. They know the sounds of opening oatmeal packaging and hemp milk spilling over granola. They learn quickly.

Our kayaking gear and the guides on the southeast end of Santa Cruz Island are stationed in the old corral leftover from the island’s ranching era, a convergence of hungry island foxes and guides from all walks of life.

The guide shed in Scorpion Canyon is a potpourri of packs, helmets, PFDs, towels, gear hanging and drying, salt-encrusted radios, flashlights for dark sea caves, and sometimes last night’s used bowls and plates. Also, my hangboard is mounted inside the guide shed for anyone who wants to partake in a variety of pull-ups.

It’s nice when you’re the only guide there, otherwise the tiny walk-in shed feels like you have five to 10 roommates at once. It gets crowded and it’s hard to maneuver around everyone’s gear.

However, when I’m alone it’s blissful. I’m satiated and I listen to the sights and sounds of Scorpion Canyon. There’s no denying the perpetual croaks of the ever-present ravens, the brilliant blue of the endemic island scrub jay, and collective birdsong by rufous-crowned sparrows, Northern Channel Island loggerhead shrikes, spotted towhees, Bewick’s wrens, black phoebes, and northern flickers. Occasionally osprey, bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, and peregrine falcons fly over the canyon, accompanied by heckling ravens.

Then there’s the high-pitched yelps belted out by some of the more territorial island foxes while patrolling their precious territories in craggy Scorpion Canyon. 

Recently, one morning I had both doors opened at the guide shed. I was alone and in the middle of a set of 20 pull-ups when I saw an island fox trot by with what I initially thought was a snake hanging out of its jaws. I quickly grabbed my camera and peered through my Canon 300mm lens for a better look. It was only a stick, or so I thought initially. I moved in closer for a better look and was astonished to discover that a four-legged island rascal had swiped my bamboo spoon. Apparently, I didn’t get the memo that we’re now sharing utensils.

I had just washed it after finishing off another bowl of oats. It was drying in the sun while I was doing my pull-ups. The smallest fox species in North America is skilled in the art of thievery. If it’s something related to food or not nailed down, then island foxes can out-fox us humans on a consistent basis. I’ve lost count of how many socks I’ve lost over the years.

I was in the middle of a pull-up when the island fox pranced by. It reminded me of my pup Owen when he grabs something he knows he shouldn’t – like one of my socks – but he can’t help himself. He’s certainly much easier to run down than an island fox. Island foxes are quick, fast, and it’s almost impossible to get something back once they have ahold of it.

However, I’m a seasoned vet when it comes to recovering property from the cat-like island fox. I tried running after it, making a lot of noise, hoping to scare it into dropping my much-needed spoon. That didn’t work. It ran off but stopped again and began chewing on my spoon. 

My next tactic was a rock. I got as close as I could to the fox and gently rolled the stone toward the island fox. As it traveled through the grass, it spooked the fox into letting go of my precious, now partially munched on, spoon.

Now when I inhale my daily bowl of oats on the island, each mouthful is a fond reminder while gazing at those little teeth marks permanently etched in my spoon.


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